John Oliver, HBO’s leading truth teller, followed up last week’s explosive (and long overdue) Donald Trump evisceration with something just as crucial but admittedly less triumphant: special tax districts. "Hello, people watching for the first time because of our Trump piece," Oliver greeted his boosted audience. "Also, I presume, goodbye. Thanks for checking in." Of course, when pairing Oliver’s special district breakdown with the realization that someone like Trump could actually become intimately involved with the governmental process, the horrors of both become strikingly clear.
"Special districts are small units of government with the power to take tax dollars to do one specific thing," Oliver explained before launching into the sadly inevitable pitfalls of such a thing. "Think of a special district like a cult," the possessor of amazing L.L. Cool J airport stories continued. "They can take your money and you may not even be aware that you are in one." In fact, special districts annually take as much as $100 billion in taxpayer money.
Sadly, as is so often the case with a particularly enlightening John Oliver evisceration, this story too ends with the realization that everything—even so-called special districts—is pretty screwed. "There’s no way to break them up," Oliver insisted. "They’re like packing peanuts or the enduring friendship of Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake." As noted by Oliver, that distinction means they’ll likely be with us until the final strike of time.